Impact Of Giving

Celebrating Diverse Identities In and Out of the Classroom

This year marked the 15th anniversary of the Fieldston Upper 10th Grade humanities curriculum, a team-taught interdisciplinary course spanning English, ethics, and history across the African American, Asian American, Indigenous, Latinx, and Jewish Communities. The humanities curriculum celebrates the identities of Fieldston students, by listening to each other’s stories and perspectives and embracing the literature, music, art, and spoken word of different cultures. Bringing their studies to life, they explored the intersection between the Chinese and Jewish immigrants who share space on the Lower East Side, even as their traditions are unique from each other. Students read Elizabeth Alexander’s “Trayvon Nation,” essays exploring the impact that monuments and memorials have on our country and that ask us to consider “who’s represented in what ways and what it will take to change narratives.” Students created new monuments to the ideals of American freedom, exposing problematic narratives and exploring themes of liberation. From a monument to the diversity of ethnic foods in America to a reimagining of some of our nation’s most powerful paintings in the Capitol Rotunda, the projects highlighted the diverse voices that create freedoms for everyone.

The Ethical Dilemma of Spotted Lantern Flies

Chatter and curiosity from Ethical Culture’s students about the newly arrived and invasive spotted lanternfly sparked an idea for an interdisciplinary study of the insects and the real-life ethical dilemma they pose. Science Teacher Beverly Chang led the 2nd Grade students in a discussion about where the lanternflies came from, how they arrived in North America, and how their diet impacts local plants and trees. Next, Ethics Teacher Cristina Ross made the ethical connection by asking the class about their feelings on the insects. Children spoke about not wanting trees and flowers to be destroyed, but not wanting to kill the lanternflies either. Ross shared that their conflicted feelings were an “ethical dilemma” and explained that this can cause internal uneasiness. To navigate challenging conversations around ethical dilemmas, Ross gave the students a guide: Explain your feelings; listen, ask questions, and stay curious; and end the conversation with respect and consideration. Auden R. ’33 chimed in with a closing thought: “Spotted lanternflies are not bad because of who they are, but what they are doing to trees is not good. We might have to think about this for a little bit longer.”

Book Club Develops Deeper Understanding of Neurodiversity

Fieldston Lower’s 4th Graders dove into a curriculum created by teachers, reading specialists, and librarians that explored neurodiversity; focused on how every person’s brain functions differently; developed students’ reading, listening, and speaking skills; and exemplified interdisciplinary and collaborative learning. After learning about the many forms of neurodivergence, students focused on autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Divided into three book club groups, each group read a different story that included a character with ASD. Groups gathered to read and discuss their story, and met with students in different groups for more general discussions that analyzed similarities and differences between the characters and the stories. Cora S. ’31 explained that “no brain thinks the exact same way. But there are so many benefits of thinking a different way. In our book, the main character, Lester, is really good at science. If we saw and appreciated his strengths, we could make sure he was able to do something with them!” Teachers Maggie Morrison and Kate Ward say, “Students enjoyed making sense of their reading through discussions with their peers and conversations about story themes that go beyond surface-level understanding.”

Creating Change in School and the Community

During a student’s three years of ethics-based education at Fieldston Middle, they have the opportunity to apply their growing knowledge to real-world scenarios. For their capstone projects this year, 7th Graders explored their place in the Fieldston Middle community, and 8th Graders learned how to effect change in the broader community of New York City. 7th Grade students identified challenges that their peers face and worked together to develop and present proposals for improvement. Students contemplated different perspectives, tested theories on how to improve situations, and consulted data, building on skills developed in their English, science, and math classes. Finally, students presented their projects to the School’s administrative team. “This project has taught me that while making changes might not be simple, it’s 100% possible,” says Isabella F. ’28. Meanwhile, 8th Graders researched and partnered with organizations in the New York area that ECFS alumni are currently involved with. Alumni discussed their work with students, and students collaborated on short documentary films about what they learned. “The project taught me that even if you’re only one person, you can still have such an impact on others to form a larger community,” Sarah J. ’27 says.

If you have a story to share about the impact of philanthropy at ECFS please email us: